It’s time to break things down… I have been mulling this over for some time now and haven’t been able to arrive at the crux of the issue. Somehow writing tends to loosen the knots and liberate the essence of the enigma. Maybe it’s editing that creates the magic?! Reading back what I’ve written provides a unique perspective like none other. You are speaking to yourself and you can see what you said vs. what you meant to say. Issues get narrowed and solutions are synthesized. I tend to edit a lot. I wish I had more time to edit. And, I can already tell you that this issue is going to take some extra work. What the heck am I talking about, you wonder? Well, it’s extremely personal. I have to drill deep to arrive at the exact moment when I stopped being a Republican.
A few months ago, I was at a family dinner when this issue took center stage. My sister casually commented on her resentment towards paying higher taxes so welfare mothers can have more babies and take advantage of our system, as she poured me a nice glass of Chianti. I should’ve kept quiet. I knew better. Wine and politics never mixed well. Throw in my family and it’s a fool proof recipe for disaster. But no, I chimed in, fueled the fire and raised one or two genuinely awesome questions about the difference between entitlements and welfare? And, how for a party that preaches against governmental interference when it comes to their purse strings, the Republicans are the first to get involved in almost every personal, socially motivated issue. Case in point, women’s rights.
I did not win over any friends that day. In fact, the dinner turned somewhat heated, until my sister looked me dead in the eye and asked in a sarcastic voice, “for all your points, let me ask you, didn’t you vote for Bush?” Ugh! Yes, there it was…the truth. The gotcha moment! Yes, I had indeed voted for the reelection of the 2nd Bush. I got involved, preached his gospel and even secretly longed to have a beer with the dude. Who would you rather have a beer with Bush or Kerry? Oh, not ketchup Kerry… who seemed rich beyond my wildest dreams and would probably never even know the difference between a stout and IPA. I wanted Bushy- the country cowboy I could relate to, who spoke with a twang and didn’t care if he made up words as he went along. Maybe I was naive or maybe I drank the cool aid.
There were other things. I believed that the republican ideals of family values, free-market enterprise, maintaining a strong military, and a tough minded foreign policy were essential in the years following 9/11. I believed the health savings account was a legislative gem ahead of its time. I applauded the efforts and interest paid to education- another primary Republican ideal; and providing a pathway to legal citizenship for the millions of immigrants, of which I was a member of until just before the election. There was a general consensus surrounding social issues… SILENCE! Keep your opinions, beliefs, Gods, to yourself and focus on growing the economy and keeping its citizens safe and prosperous. Patriotism was rampant in those years following 9/11 and I was convinced that the Republicans knew what they were doing. But, I was wrong. Things didn’t turn out so well. As it turned out, they were mucking it up, charging it all on credit with the bank of China.
Fast forward four years to the next election cycle. I was conflicted. I had just witnessed a series of erroneous decisions by the Republican Party on a wide range of geo-political issues. We were compromising our economy, our basic rights in the name of safety and freedom. We were engaged in wars without any idea of how or when to end them. The free-market, left unregulated and unsupervised, went rogue. The wealthy became insanely wealthier and the middle class moved into a bubble that would eventually unravel in the worst way. The economy was on the brink of collapse. And there was Barak Obama, a black man running for president, with absolutely no experience against one of the country’s most decorated war veteran John McCain. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Do I continue to vote on political lines or vote for change… one my country desperately needed?! I was unemployed, struggling to make ends meet… Do I put my money on the black guy who can relate to my life story or the old white grandpa who comes with invaluable life experiences? Old vs. New? Black vs. White?
I did nothing. I voted for local officials and left the question for president blank. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either. I didn’t trust Obama. I needed more proof. I was bitter about my own life and didn’t believe in fairy tales of change anymore. But, sadly I didn’t trust the Republicans either. I had lost my faith in them. This was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the GOP.
Most people in this country vote for a party based on single wedge-issues. Mostly they are social issues like abortion, gun-control, family values, religion, gay rights etc. The rest of the stuff about the taxes, foreign policy, and national debt are good talking points in a debate. But, if you sit quietly in a room and reflect on why you were inclined towards one party vs. another it is almost always because of something deeply personal. This year, my ultimate 180 from the Republican Party began when I heard the strong rhetoric against women’s rights. Roe v. Wade, the biggest victory for the feminist movement was under scrutiny. The word transvaginal ultrasound entered into the daily lexicon and I wish it had stopped there… But no, Planned Parenthood was villainized as baby-killing factories, and a new theory emerged about the amazing ability of the female body to ‘shut down” in case of a ‘forcible’ rape. I could not stand by and watch a bunch of old men erase the progress that hundreds of women have made in the last century, fighting for equal pay and equal rights. I may not be an activist feminist, ready to rally for the cause but I can surely take a stand for once!
There were other issues that percolated my ultimate switch. The Republican primaries made me want to vomit. I realized that a strong, true moderate candidate such as John Huntsman, with his in depth knowledge of foreign relations, with China, nonetheless, would NEVER get a fair shot from the hard right. He would never become a household name because he was too… what’s the word? Normal? Sane? Rational? I watched in horror as one by one the Republicans tarnished the conservative brand by denigrating the citizens of this nation and classifying them in narrow boxes. The 2012 Republican campaign was directed towards white people in America. Period. Everyone else became part of the problem, second class citizens. I had friends who were laid off and collecting unemployment, I didn’t consider them moochers! I had smart friends who were born to Mexican parents who came here illegally. These people were American, patriotic in every sense of the word. Let’s not even talk about the extreme faction – the Tea Party is the cancer of the Republican Party with their backwards ideology and blatant falsification of the US Constitution to suit their cause. I could no longer identify with the narrow definition of what it meant to be a Republican. Amassing wealth was not on my bucket list. Making a difference was!
There is a lot of criticism against Obama and I agree with some. He hasn’t handled everything right. Mistakes were made. But, I think about the days leading up to the 2008 economic crisis and how the world was going to pieces and the Dow was reduced to a laughable symbol to today, and I can see the progress. There is movement in the right direction. There is a prayer that comes to mind, “dear Lord, even if I may fall, please let me fall forward.” That is us. We’re recovering. We are rebuilding. We need bold leaders who can move people into action. There is a lot of inaction in our government and it is time to get our hands dirty and tackle the tough issues! Is Obama the right candidate for the job? I think so. I sincerely hope so. But, I knew for sure that Romney was not. This was not his time. Do I think government is the answer to our problems? No! But, the solution has to start somewhere, and I think it’s the role of government to come up with ideas- a balanced proposal involving public- private partnerships- to better our country’s problems. And, the Democrats get it! So, I voted for Obama.
I parted ways with the Grey, I mean Grand Ole Party but, I’m not abandoning my conservative values. I may be liberal in my social views, but I strongly believe in the free-market enterprise and educational reformation that have built this country. As David Brooks said in his column today, “Perhaps politics is being reborn.” Social issues are family issues, and family issues are economic issues. Everything is interrelated. They are no longer separate. Senator Rubio gave a riveting speech at a recent dinner,” It all starts with our people,” Rubio continued. “In the kitchens of our hotels. In the landscaping crews that work in our neighborhoods. In the late-night janitorial shifts that clean our offices. There you will find the dreams America was built on. There you will find the promise of tomorrow. Their journey is our nation’s destiny. And if they can give their children what our parents gave us, the 21st-century America will be the single greatest nation that man has ever known.” I was deeply moved when I read it. Finally, a nod to the common man! I think the country needs more voices like that, from both parties, but speeches are just speeches. We need action. The same week, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum tweeted “We did it” after a UN measure supporting disabled citizens across the globe was defeated in the Senate. My mother is disabled and it felt like a personal attack on my family, Mr. Santorum!
It’s time to break things down… so we can build them back up again, stronger than before. I’m standing on the cliff, along with my country and closely following the ensuing power game that is being played. I’m very concerned. Who I vote for in the next election will ultimately depend on who is willing to connect the dots and put forth a plan to unite this country. Innovate, Renovate & Resonate! Republicans? Democrats? Conservatives? Liberals? They are nothing but labels and we no longer have to be defined by them. We are free to take the good from both and make a whole.